Friday, December 28, 2012

The Alloy of Law, by Brandon Sanderson

The Alloy of Law: A Mistborn Novel, by Brandon Sanderson

I thoroughly enjoyed the first three Mistborn novels and was excited to find The Alloy of Law set in the same universe. This one takes place three hundred years after the first collection; the laws of allomancy haven't changed, but science and technology have continued to march on and as a result we get to visit a very different world. The traditional fantasy setting of swords and sandals has evolved into one that more closely resembles a Victorian Old West. Sanderson does a great job of presenting his unique magic system in a different society than the first trilogy; seeing how the same rules apply to a different world was fascinating. The heroes aren't perfect and the villains aren't pure evil; coupled with the steampunk-like environment this was a book I couldn't put down.

First Sentence:
Wax crept along the ragged fence in a crouch, his boots scraping the dry ground.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Super Giant Monster Time! by Jeff Burk

Super Giant Monster Time! (Choose Your Own Mind-Fuck Fest #3), by Jeff Burk

I loved "Choose Your Own Adventure" books as a kid, even writing my own at one point. When Super Giant Monster Time! was selected for my book club a wave of nostalgia engulfed me. I ordered it, and when it arrived I discovered that it was actually a wicked parody of the genre written by the delightfully subversive Jeff Burk.

You have the choice of three characters to become: a boring office worker, a punk-rock chick, or a scientist at a secret government lab. As any of the three selections you make selections amid a backdrop of an alien invasion and giant rampaging monsters. Virtually none of the endings are what you'd call "happy," but they are all pretty damn funny. A selection: "You feel no pain as your body is blown into thousands of tiny bits." "You think, but turtles aren't cannibals! And then they fall upon upon you." "You laugh as the city burns around you, the flames clearing way for the new age of carrots." "You flick your tail as you dream of what you will do to the hairless apes with these new powers. You are no longer Mr. McWhiskers, you are now Mr. McWhiskers — the Super-Cat!" "Then you get stepped on by a giant walking carrot. Serves you right you piece of shit." Good stuff!

With scenes including mass-murder, rape, porn, and a close-encounter with the business end of an ejaculating monster this isn't a book for kids, regardless of the format. Super Giant Monster Time! is a fun read and makes for a good escape for an hour or so. But you should wait until after work, because after all, "those TPS reports aren't going to file themselves!"

First Sentence:
You started off your day at the office just like any other.

Sixth Street, by Allen Childs, M.D.

Images of America: Sixth Street, by Allen Childs, M.D.

Sixth Street is the heart of Austin's entertainment district. While it has changed a lot in the twenty-five or so years since I first moved to town, in many ways it hasn't changed at all: the names of the bars and clubs change, but the feel of the area remains the same. With this book of annotated photographs and drawings dating back to 1840, though, it is clear the history of Sixth Street is long and varied.

When stagecoaches roamed the land Sixth Street was the main east-west thoroughfare in Austin, largely because it was the avenue that had the fewest hills while being far enough from the river to avoid flooding. As such, hotels, saloons, and storefronts occupied a lot of the real estate, lasting until the entertainment boom and revitalization of the area in the late 1970's. The Driskill Hotel remains popular today and the legacy of the saloons is obvious, but while there is still the odd retail store today, it is hard to believe Austin's first JCPenney and HEB were located on this road!

The narrative of the book isn't very fluid but the photos more than make up for this. I love picking this up and just thumbing through it, looking at the history and imagining how much things have changed over the years. If you've spent any time in Austin, this thin tome will put a smile on your face.

First Sentence (from the Introduction):
East Sixth Street, now a hub of the live music capital of the world, had its humble beginning as a dirt road, the only level path from the east.

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